March 3, 2011

Justin & Mary Brides: Piece of Cake Sessions

Edition #1: Hotel v. Home

So the consensus seems to be an overwhelming yes: you brides would like some love too! :) So I have decreed it, let the Piece of Cake Sessions begin! :)

Julia & I have long joked about writing “The Manifesto”: a long list of things we have learned (sometimes the hard way) that we wish all brides knew to make their days easier. These are things that seem so simple or maybe even obvious in retrospect, but they are so hard to imagine when you’re doing this for the first time. And so the good news is, we have a LOT of material to fuel these piece of cake sessions moving forward. Pretty much until you guys tell us you’re bored with them! :)

First up and the very first one we knew we wanted to do is: It is usually so worth the extra money to get ready in a hotel, rather than getting ready at home.

When we hear from brides that they plan on getting ready at home (and in most cases that almost always means their parents’ home), they usually give one of two reasons: 1) to save the money and/or 2) for the sentimental aspect of getting ready at home. While both of these reasons are really good in theory, in our experience, in practice it rarely turns out the way you’re imagining it.

First of all, and maybe the biggest, is just that things get really crowded really fast at home. Besides your parents and you, you’ll have your bridesmaids, your makeup artist, your hair person, the photographers, the florist dropping by, the sandwich delivery guy, friends & neighbors who just want to drop by, etc. And pretty soon it starts looking like that scene at the beginning of Home Alone where they’re all racing up and down the steps trying to get out the door for the airport. Chaos. :) Whereas on the other hand, if everyone is getting ready at a hotel, typically the bridesmaids will have their own rooms they can go back to to hang out if the room starts getting too crowded.

Which leads us to the second thing, although you might imagine it feeling like this calm scene out of Father of the Bride where you stand in your room in front of three floor length mirrors while you hug your parents goodbye….typically getting ready at home is a lot more stressful than that. If you think about it, getting ready at home (which really means your parents’ home) means that you are putting them in the role of playing host. To ALL of those people. And typically, more often that not, that means your mom spends all day running around making sure everything and everyone else is taken care of instead of being able to sit back and really soak in the day. Which means she misses a lot. And she feels frazzled. Which of course means you feel frazzled. And those “put your veil on it’s time to go” moments become a lot more of a blur than a memory.

And finally and selfishly, the getting ready pictures are just usually a lot better in a hotel for one major reason: no STUFF in the background. Sure in any getting ready situation there is going to be stuff from the day, but getting ready at home means there’s a whole lifetime of stuff on top of that in the background and therefore the pictures. If it’s just some suitcases and makeup bags, we can move that. But rearranging an entire home becomes a lot more difficult. :) Plus, hotels just tend to have more modern furniture to shoot portraits on/good surfaces to shoot the details on. And it just sets a more serene, elegant back drop.

Now, here comes the major disclaimer time: There have been exceptions to this rule! I can think of a few good cases, Katie & Colin’s wedding in particular, where getting ready at home was everything they imagined it would be. Everyone was calm and happy, and the furniture & background was clean, beautiful & serene, and Katie’s parents Brenda & Bernie were the perfect hosts. And those pictures at home made up a huge part of the story.

So definitely, take this with the grain of salt that it is intended to be, and ultimately do whatever is best for you and feels most like your day and what you’ve always imagined. But just know that there are other options out there that, in our experience, tend to be a lot less stressful for everyone involved and make for really incredible moments & memories of the day.

AND a big congratulations to Brittney Melton!! You just won yourself a copy of The Knot Weddings Look Book!! Email us your mailing addy to!

So…Photographers? Brides? What are your thoughts? We’d love to hear them!

  1. Michelle

    As a bride who got ready in a hotel, and who’s brother and SIL got ready at my parents house, I can definitely say that I liked the hotel setting MUCH better! It was a bit chaotic, but in a good way. The makeup artists, the florist dropping off the flowers to my room, the photographers, everyone was there but it was fun, crazy, and just overall an extremely enjoyable experience for me. Getting ready with my girls was one of my favorite memories from that day :)

  2. Brooke

    I’ve been pondering this decision too… thank you for your input. :) I think we will be getting ready in the hotel for sure, it was what I was leaning towards anyway! Mainly for pictures. :)

  3. Sarah Danaher

    you’re wise, and i’m grateful that you shared this.

  4. Jackie Lamas

    I definitely agree with having the getting ready set in a hotel or a very beautiful home. I recently had to move the whole living room around just to get some good light and decent backgrounds. Of course if the home is well decorated then that is definitely ok too :) great advice!

  5. laetitia

    OMG, yes, this is so true !!! A nice hotel to get ready is way better to have very elegant pictures of the getting ready: generally nice big windows, mirrors, antique or modern decoration … Is it worth the extra spending for your wedding day? Hummm… DEFINITLY

  6. jackie g. photog

    I have to agree with getting ready in a hotel SUITE….often times brides are getting ready in a "standard" room with all of their bridesmaids/moms/make up artist/hairstylists/etc…and aside from being crowded…."stuff" tends to be everywhere, and the room gets warm quickly! I know it’s not feasible for every bride to be able to get ready in a large beautiful suite, but it certainly photographs better, IMO.

  7. Caitlin

    I had originally planned on getting ready at my parents house but they were hosting family friends, my brother, my stepbrother, and my stepsister-I thought it would just be too hectic even though I did like the idea of it. The hotel suite was a splurge but we made it a part of our budget from day one, so we just worked around it since it was important to us to have the space the day before and of the wedding. One little bit of advice I’d share is make sure you have food in the room! We forgot to stock our rooms and I had to send my best friend’s amazing husband out on a deli run to pick up sandwiches for the bridesmaids, makeup people, Justin, Mary, and Julia since I think we were all about to faint from hunger! I love the photos of us getting ready in the room and outisde the hotel-as much as I love my parents house, the hotel was just the best option for us.

  8. MM

    @JackieG: Oooh I totally agree!! That is an important clarification!

  9. Kristin Nicole

    Agree! Shooting at home is hard, it is usually cramped with that many people.

  10. Jessica Sweeney

    Good point! Something to think about . . .

  11. Columbus GA Photographer

    I totally agree with you guys on this one. Hotels are "usually" the way to go.

  12. Allison

    I’ve always debated hotel vs. home – thanks for the advice!!

  13. emma Sharkey

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  14. Celeste Dowd

    Totally agree. As a second photographer/photojournalist, I love shooting in hotels, I do have to add one more thing to the pro-hotel list…no PETS. I am an animal lover, but not so much animal hair all over beautiful gowns-lover.

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